Larry Banman: State line only thing that divides Wyoming from Kremmling
Without a Doubt
This past weekend, the West Grand High School football team traveled to Saratoga, Wyo. for a game. The Saratoga junior varsity volleyball team did the opposite and traveled to Kremmling for the tournament hosted by West Grand. Last winter, the wrestling team made the trek to Saratoga.
On the surface, people may wonder why the school district is funding trips to other states. A quick review of the facts, however, show that the trip to Saratoga will actually be the second-shortest trip the football Mustangs will take this season. Hayden is a shorter distance, barely, with Paonia and Meeker both being longer trips.
League opponents Soroco (Oak Creek) and North Park (Walden) are both playing eight-man football this season so those close trips are no longer part of the itinerary.
From the Saratoga perspective, the two-and-a-half hour trip to Kremmling is like going to the corner market. They were placed in a league this season where their closest league opponent is a four-hour trip by bus.
On the way to Saratoga, we passed very close to Encampment. That town has a high school, but no football team. Those who wish to play football, travel the 20 miles to Saratoga to participate. During the winter, Encampment plays a mean game of basketball. Last year’s boys team from Encampment was the state champion of Wyoming.
Those who traveled to the football game on Saturday could have easily been home by 6:30 p.m. That left time to mow the lawn, have a dinner at a reasonable hour or just settle in to watch some Saturday night football. The typical trip to Rangely for a Friday night game brings a person home sometime after midnight and pretty much useless for the rest of the weekend.
As gas and diesel prices spiral, it makes sense to travel to places like Saratoga or Encampment or Rock Springs. It is ironic that the towns that are closest to Kremmling are larger towns with larger schools. Generally speaking, contests between teams from schools of a different size don’t make sense from a competitive standpoint and from a safety standpoint. Thus, West Grand drives through Summit County on the way to Fairplay; through Glenwood Springs and Rifle on the way to Plateau Valley and through Steamboat Springs and Craig on the way to Meeker and Rangely.
On a more personal note, I found a kinship with several of the people of Saratoga, Encampment and Riverside. Those towns, like ours, have a strong ranching and forestry heritage. Some of the surrounding acreage has been found to be attractive to some very wealthy people.
The jets at the airport in Saratoga attest to a population that is distinct from the rank-and-file members of that south central Wyoming town. What is different about Saratoga is that it is a bit more isolated that Kremmling. There are more wide-open spaces, fewer cars on the road and you can still find that all-purpose store at which you can buy a candy bar, a slab of bacon, a fan belt for your car and PVC pipe for that weekend plumbing project.
When I travel to another town, I like to visit a bit with the local townfolk. I try to find people who are out of the limelight. On Saturday, in a couple of hours, I was able to find out that some of the volunteers who were helping to finish the new football facility had recently come down with a bout of “cowboy time”; there are two golf courses in Saratoga, one of which likely would not admit me as a member; see several photos of last winter’s snow drifts (these came courtesy of the clerk at the convenience store who had them stored in the memory of her cell phone). There is also a restaurant called Ma’s Kitchen with daily specials that must include at least one recipe for meatloaf. The folks near Saratoga do quite a bit of irrigating, but they are more of a center-pivot crowd. I generally find out a lot about a town from the food concession stand at the ballgame, but I didn’t make it quite that far on this trip.
If you have traveled with the Mustangs in the past, the best way to describe Saratoga is to say it is more like Oak Creek, Walden and Colbran than it is like Parachute, Hayden or Rangely. After Grand Valley (Parachute) moved into its new facilities, I always felt like the people there hoped I had wiped my feet and washed my hands before I got to town.
It’s too bad there is a silly line on the map that makes it impractical to start a league with our neighbors in Wyoming. It certainly makes sense to me to visit them as opposed to taking the annual pilgrimages to the Utah state line.
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